SEARCA leads talks on forestry inclusion

BRINGING together voices of youth and women champions who have led the way to meaningful participation towards sustainable forest management (SFM), the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) organized the session on youth and gender inclusion in forestry at the Asia Pacific Forestry Week 2019 (APFW 2019) in Incheon, South Korea on June 17-21, 2019.

SEARCA, an intergovernment treaty organization, said the APFW 2019 that was jointly organized and hosted by the Korea Forest Service and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations was anchored on the overall theme "Forests for peace and well-being."

SEARCA Director Glenn Gregorio said the session theme evoked the need to integrate forestry into the context of environment, society and sustainable development, wherein the economic and sociocultural dimensions are taken into consideration.

"The session is aimed to identify gaps and interventions towards streamlining youth and women's participation in forestry decision-making and their implications for SFM," Gregorio said.

In his overview of the session, Pedcris Orencio, SEARCA program head for research and development, emphasized that experiences from countries in the Asia-Pacific region show the transformative impacts of empowering men, women, youth and indigenous communities to manage forest and natural resources.

Orencio said the empowerment results in substantial benefits such as capital formation and improvements in livelihood and food security.

SEARCA drew in Bangkok-based Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC) to discuss "Forests, power and exclusion: What it takes to include women and youth in forest landscapes" as well as Thailand's International Forestry Students' Association (IFSA) to talk about "Youth Inclusion in Decision Making for Sustainable Forest Management."

Kalpana Giri of RECOFTC highlighted that representation, resources and rights were the key entry-points for inclusion.

On the other hand, Oindrila Basu, IFSA representative, underscored that youth inclusion in decision-making not only recognizes and encourages their voice and action, but also instills in them a sense of responsibility to the cause of the planet and accountability towards the decisions taken.

On the role of men and women in forest decision-making, experiences of Nepal and Myanmar countries were also presented by representatives of the Federation of Community Forestry Users in Nepal and the assistant director of the Forest Research Institute (FRI) of Myanmar.

Ei Ei Swe Hlaing of FRI shared findings of the assessment of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in mountainous regions of Myanmar towards community forest development, a project funded by the SEARCA-managed Association of Southeast Asian Nations Working Group Strategic Response Fund.

She highlighted that women, young and old, are empowered by the income they get from NTFPs which helps pay for household expenses.